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Celebrating my first milestone in practice

Written by: Georgia Robb
Published on: 23 Jan 2024

Paw and hand

Image © LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS / Adobe Stock

Wow, completing my first year feels like a huge milestone and although my career has only just started, I am over the moon with my achievements to date.

When I look back on the year, I can see how far I have come, but also how far I still have to go. I now have more autonomy with operations, as my confidence and surgical capabilities improve, and I’m continually given the opportunity to try new surgeries to broaden my skills and push me outside my comfort zone, which I’m always enthusiastic about.

Having said that, I’m never one to shy away from asking for help if I need advice or reassurance, and with a good and supportive team around me, I’ve come to realise there’s no shame in that.

Still learning

I also recently attended a dental CPD course with renowned small animal dentistry specialist, Rachel Perry. Even though I learn something most days at work, I had forgotten how much I love gaining knowledge and experience in a CPD or university-type setting. The course was very useful, especially as dentistry is an area that is slightly neglected in the university teaching course, despite it being vital in general practice.

Surgery

Interesting operations that I’ve recently been involved with include a splenectomy, or spleen removal, as well as numerous wound repairs, and I’m also continuing to gain confidence on bitch spays, because there have definitely been a few challenging ones.

I’m now performing a much wider range of bitch spays, but unfortunately I recently had my first “bleeder”. The patient was a five-year-old, slightly overweight Labrador retriever, so I knew it would be challenging. Despite double ligating and being happy with my ligatures, when releasing the ovarian pedicle back into the abdomen, blood started to ooze – although thankfully not pour – from the site and began to fill the abdomen.

Given that the dog was large, and blood continued to obscure the surgical field, I found it challenging to relocate the pedicle. Luckily, I had support from another colleague who was scrubbed in, and we managed to resolve the issue, but it was certainly a stressful situation.

If I’m honest, it also knocked my confidence and it was hard to remain calm in the moment, but I am pleased to say I have since performed more spays without complications.

Ups and downs

A recurring part of being a vet is that there are good days and bad days. My bad days mainly revolve around the clients. I do get affected when clients are upset or somewhat difficult with cases. It’s hard not to take it personally and despite becoming thicker skinned over the past year, there are still occasions where it really affects my mood. In addition, euthanasia is obviously a difficult aspect of the job, too, as it’s hard emotionally – especially when you really know the patient or client.

Thankfully, there are lots of good days, though. The biggest highs are when I perform a new surgery. Although I wouldn’t say I’m a budding surgeon, I love the dexterity and the adrenaline rush when a challenging operation, or one I haven’t done before, goes well.

Good days also usually involve the rest of my team. I’m a very sociable person, so the opportunity to have a quick chat or laugh always brightens my day. Generally, if I summarise a good day, if I’m not operating it would be a couple of simple consults, a few interesting medicine cases and an exciting emergency or complex case to get my teeth into.

Georgia Robb

Highlights

I’ve previously mentioned how I found ultrasound imaging particularly interesting, and this shows no sign of waning. I recently enjoyed a full day internal CPD course with a colleague who is certified in diagnostic imaging, and it was a great opportunity to learn some slightly more challenging skills such as imaging adrenals and the common bile duct. I’m now hoping to progress this further.

Another area of the practice that I’ve always enjoyed working in is the emergency and critical care (ECC) department in our 24-hour emergency hospital. In recent weeks, I’ve been working night shifts alongside our out-of-hours team, which is a great way of increasing my ECC exposure.

Across the shifts there have been all types of cases, some of which were highly critical, while others could be sent home. These shifts have further fuelled my interest in both ECC and managing inpatients within a hospital setting, and I’m looking forward to more.

New graduates

We’ve now had another intake of new graduate vets into the team and they are doing brilliantly so far. If I’m honest, it feels nice to no longer be the “newbie” and it has encouraged me to reflect and appreciate how far I have come.

When I graduated, I had lots of support from the previous year’s new graduate intake, which I really appreciated, so I am trying to make sure I do the same for the new arrivals on both a clinical and personal level – simple things like making sure they’re okay, always being open to questions and being an informal person who they can talk to whenever they need any advice, assistance or help.

Advice to myself

If I could speak to myself 12 months ago, I’d definitely say take each day as it comes and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Don’t take the quiet days for granted and don’t be too hard on yourself in those challenging cases or ones that didn’t go as planned – it’s all a learning opportunity and a chance to do better next time.

Recognise that asking for help or even reassurance, whether it’s in a professional setting or from friends and family, does not mean you are incapable or bad at your job – you are working in a “team”, so use other people and their knowledge to your advantage.

Be honest, both with yourself and with pet owners. At first, I thought I needed to know everything and would panic if I couldn’t formulate an immediate diagnosis for a patient. With experience, I have found that if I’m stumped, it is okay to tell the owner’s I’m not certain, and might need to ask a colleague for help, and they always appreciate my candour.

Make sure you enjoy life outside of work because it’s so important and otherwise you’ll burn out quickly. Dedicate time to your hobbies or even just relaxing – being a vet should not be your only personality and it’s important to separate the two sometimes. You must be able to separate your work and social life.